What they are
Many times when you take your child to the doctor, read a parent magazine or log onto a parent website you are asked to measure your child’s development against a set of age-related standards. As you answer the doctor’s questions, or compare your child to the charts in magazines or on websites, you may start to worry what your child can or can’t do at his age. It is very natural to wonder whether your child is developing at the same rate as other children. In fact, every parent does this. So what are these comparisons, and should you be concerned about what they tell you?
These comparison tools are called developmental milestones. They can help you compare your child’s development with what is considered “normal” for a given age. Experts have compared thousands of babies and children to come up with a rough way to measure how children should act and the skills they should have by a certain age. Examples include what age a child starts to walk or starts to talk.
Milestones are not the whole story
Before you consult them, it’s important to understand what developmental milestones can and cannot tell you. It is good to be aware of milestones because your child’s doctor will probably ask you about them during scheduled checkups. On the other hand, no two children develop the same way. For instance, some children get advanced skills in one area before they even get basic skills in another area. In fact, if you compare several developmental milestone tools, you will see that most skills are set in a range of months, not on just one specific age. And there are even differences between some of the different milestone guides.
So the milestones are intended to give you a general sense of whether your child’s development is on track. By themselves, they can’t tell you or your doctor for sure that your child is OK or whether there is something wrong. Medical and developmental experts you consult will never use milestones by themselves. They will also take into account their own evaluations and tests and information from you to determine if your child may have a delay in development or a disorder.
But milestones can tell you and the doctor if your child should be evaluated further to see if his development is on track.
The link below will take you to a developmental milestone tool developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that will help you see what your child is able to do and what may happen next. As you use look at the milestone measurements, try to focus on what your child is doing and not on what they should be doing at that age or what they can’t do.
Developmental Milestones is an online milestone measurement resource. Ther is also a free Milestone Tracker App you can download from the CDC website. They also offer free Children's Books, videos of Milestones in Action and a section specifically made for families.